It is with an enormous sense of loss that I acknowledge the passing of my colleague and friend Dr. Joe Flummerfelt. I really only got to know Joe well after he moved to Indianapolis, but immediately he felt like a life-long friend. He never took the time a brag about himself or his accomplishments. You sort of had to find out about his greatness indirectly. With his character of humility and calmness he always seemed much more interested in what others were doing or in the music itself. This last year he and I attended a dress rehearsal of Penderecki’s St. Luke Passion at Indiana University. We walked into the quiet, near empty auditorium, sat down …. and almost immediately there was a flock of doctoral choral students surrounding us, each paying tribute and offering their unbridled admiration and thanks to the maestro. He had previously just done a week of seminars. Then as the rehearsal was getting ready to begin. Krzysztof Penderecki and his wife entered and immediately they rushed over to greet their lifelong friend. Little did I know that Joe had been instrumental in the American premiere of the work with Robert Shaw. You could immediately feel the mutual love and respect between these colleagues. Penderecki immediately saw that we had a full score to follow during the rehearsal. We shared the score … commented on various sections and had a very complete musical evening. But I noticed something….. Joe didn’t really need the score. He knew the work. If you want to know about the professional accomplishments of Joe Flummerfelt, you don’t have to look very far. He prepared choruses for the New York Philharmonic and nearly all the great conductors for years. His recordings from Westminster Choir College are a testament to his knowledge of the craft and the art of choral music. As I think of him today I realize we not only suffer the loss of a friend but also his wealth of knowledge, insight and experience.
When it came to starting a new project in Indianapolis… (the Music for All National Choir Festival), Joe was one of our strongest supporters. He loved choral music and loved the idea of creating more choral music in his home city. But he took on the mantle of helping conductors grow. He became a teacher to each conductor by providing a “Conductor’s Critique” experience. Each conductor was video recorded in performance. He created written comments and then met individually with each of them. Almost without exception, the conductors considered it to be a life changing experience. This position at the festival will continue in his honor.
Joe we will miss you, but your friendship, your teaching, your humility, your leadership, and your love for choral music will remain with us always. Thank you my friend.